Recently, a friend of mine started an argument online. I know it’s crazy such a thing would even happen. Who argues online? The topic was talent. Do you believe in talent? If you do, do you think the belief in talent can be destructive?
Can telling someone they’re smart stunt their growth?
The first time I really understood what people were talking about was when I read Malcolm Gladwell‘s Outliers. It showed me that circumstances often dictate outcomes and there are ways we can change those circumstances. We feel stuck, but we don’t have to be. A retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel recommended I read that book and I can’t tell you the impact Gladwell’s had on me.
Later, I read Daniel Coyle‘s The Talent Code and it confirmed that if you deliberately practice in a state that offers you a reasonable challenge, you can get better at something. The reason I write so much even though it’s not all high quality is because I’m not letting perfect ruin good. I need to write to identify what works and what doesn’t. This is standard advice, right? If you want to be good at something, work at being good at it! And avoid scrubs unless you’re teaching them.
Finally, I got around to reading Carol Dweck’s Mindset and it gave me a fuller understanding of how we limit ourselves and even how the use of language can betray us. Good intentions, right? She discussed the fact that we have two different mindsets we can use and develop in others. One is the fixed mindset and it’s very problematic. It’s how my life is framed when I’m depressed. When you believe things are fixed, you won’t see room for progress. You’ll only see things staying the same or getting worse. The growth mindset, on the other hand, allows you to see opportunities instead of obstacles. It inspires you to get better.
As I discussed in my recent, and horrible, podcast (available on Spotify and Google Play Music), I think there’s merit to the argument that placing too much emphasis on talent can be problematic. When we tell our kids they’re smart, for example, we are discussing a trait instead of a habit. If we want people to grow and develop, we need to focus on habits because, as Aristotle (my second-favorite philosopher after Plato) and Dumbledore (he’s my second-favorite Harry Potter character after Hermione) have both discussed, we are our habits.
The same applies to arguments! If I get mad at something you’ve done but I call you stupid, the message you receive and process is “I’m stupid.” It follows you around. What if I told you, instead, that the thing you’re doing is something I dislike and explain why? Have I done anything to help the situation?
Yes. Instead of singling out your character and attacking you as a stupid person, I’ve discussed the world we’re living in and what’s going on in it. We can both now understand why that situation, whatever it is, leads to friction between us. This allows us to make choices, together.
How often have you been upset with someone you love and trust completely? Do you beat around the bush or just come out and say it? You come out and say it! Since you love them and trust them, you probably feel comfortable enough to talk about things as behaviors and outcomes instead of personalities and flaws. I have rarely found a conversation like that not resulting in a better relationship.
I guess that’s all I’ve got for today. Thanks for reading. Oh, and visit your local library! I’ve been having a ball visiting mine!
If you can’t get to your library and want instant access to thousands of titles, there’s always Kindle Unlimited.
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